Netflix’s new film Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile starring Zac Efron and Lily Collins was highly anticipated and somewhat controversial. The story follows the persecution of Theodore Bundy, infamous 1970’s serial killer. As the film was released, so were the opinions of a multitude of viewers speaking out against the sensationalization of the horrific story. Many feel that the film is evoking sympathy for a man that would later confess to 30 murders.Read More
‘Tis the season for Christmas movies—but unless you’re up for cheesy one-liners, subpar child actors and a smooth-talking Santa who winds up in prison, you might want to stay away from Clay Kaytis’ “The Christmas Chronicles”.
This Netflix original takes place on Christmas Eve and follows young, optimistic Kate Pierce (Darby Camp) and her teen brother Teddy (Judah Lewis) as they plan to catch Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) on film but end up hitting a few obstacles along the way.Read More
Every month, Netflix and Amazon announce a list of movies they are adding to their streaming service. While I focus most of my attention on movies currently in theaters, this is alternative programming for people who can’t get to the movie theater on a regular basis. Here are 10 recommendations from the new streaming titles available in the month of September.
1. Boy (9/1 on Amazon Prime)
Thor: Ragnarok is coming out this November. Before he was handed the reins of this franchise by Marvel, director Taika Waititi made a name for himself in New Zealand and abroad for some inventive and unique comedies, including Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Boy is a film that Waititi made back in 2010 and is his only feature film I have no seen yet. It’s about a boy named Boy who idolizes his father and Michael Jackson. Given that I liked Eagle vs Shark and absolutely loved What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, I expect that I will like this one as well.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%
2. Lars and the Real Girl (9/1 on Amazon Prime)
Lars and the Real Girl is a little gem from 2007 that is genuinely one of my favorite films. Ryan Gosling is Lars, an extremely introverted and emotionally walled off man who lives in a small, tight-knit community who buys a sex doll online and begins a (non-sexual) relationship with the doll, that he has named Bianca. Realizing that Lars is clearly troubled, the people in Lars life accept Bianca into their lives as a way of helping and reaching Lars. It’s definitely a quirky indie movie, but I think it’s also one of the most touching examples of community and neighborly love that I have seen expressed on screen.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 81%
3. Graduation (9/4 on Netflix)
This is the latest film from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu, known best for his films 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Beyond the Hills. His films do not sit easily, and this one sounds no different as the story revolves around a father whose daughter is assaulted right on the cusp of taking tests to graduate, move away to study abroad, and start her life. The film was a Palme d’Or nominee at Cannes and Mungiu himself won Best Director at Cannes, an award he split with Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%
4. The Magnificent Seven (2016) (9/9 on Amazon Prime)
Out on Amazon Prime about a year after its theatrical release is Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the classic western, The Magnificent Seven, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai . Denzel Washington, a frequent Fuqua collaborator, takes on the Yul Brynner role as the leader of the ragtag group of misfits that band together to free a town from the underneath the vicious control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, played by Peter Sarsgaard. Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke are just some of the other names that populate the crew defending the people. It’s definitely not on the same level of its predecessors, but it’s perfectly fine as an action movie.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 63%
5. Frantz (9/11 on Amazon Prime)
This is a foreign film from Germany that is a remake of a 1932 Ernst Lubitsch film, Broken Lullaby. It’s set in post-WWI Germany, where a woman whose fiancé died during the war meets a Frenchman who visits their town. It turns out that he is the man who killed her fiancé and feels deep remorse over it. From what I have read, it is a thoughtful film about the void left for many after war is over. It’s also shot in black and white, but don’t let that deter you; some more recent black and white films are some of the most visually impressive (Ida, for instance).
Rotten Tomatoes score: 90%
6. First They Killed My Father (9/15 on Netflix)
This is the film from Angelina Jolie that is an adaptation of a memoir about the experience of one girl living in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years. Sadly, this Netflix original has been eclipsed by controversy surrounding an article detailing some questionable casting calls that Jolie conducted during the making of the film. It’s too bad, because an adaptation like this, done right and by someone with the profile of Jolie, can bring attention to the atrocities of the past that occurred on the opposite side of the world away from western eyes. To my eyes, this has the potential to be as relevant as the documentaries that Joshua Oppenheimer made about Indonesian genocide, The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. I hope this film gets a chance.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
7. Beauty and the Beast (9/19 on Netflix)
Given that this live action adaptation of the beloved 1992 animated feature is the highest grossing film at the box office so far this year, it’s hard to imagine that there are a lot of people who have not seen this yet. However, earlier this month Disney announced that they will launch their own streaming service in 2019, so who knows how this might impact the relationship between Netflix and Disney between now and then. Aside from that bit of news, Beauty and the Beast will still release September 19th. Despite the massive box office, the reception of the film was mixed. It suffered from the runtime being padded out by another hour. And people were torn on the musical performances of a few of the cast members. My review was one of the first I posted for this site.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 70%
8. Carol (9/20 on Netflix)
Carol is an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel by director Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine, Far From Heaven, I’m Not There). It’s about a young woman who enters into a relationship with an older, married woman in the 1950s. This film is a showcase for the acting talents of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, both of whom received Oscar nominations for their performances, two of the six nominations the film received overall. It also features gorgeous cinematography.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%
9. Elian (9/23 on Amazon Prime)
Memory is a funny thing. I could have sworn that the Elian Gonzalez news story occurred in 1999, during my senior year of high school, but it actually happened in 2000, during my freshman year of college. Elian Gonzalez was a young child from Cuba who was brought to the United States and got caught up in a huge international custody battle because his mom drowned while trying to make it to the United States. It was a giant news story, forever immortalized by a picture of a terrified Elian being taken from the arms of a relative in his closet by an armed officer. This film is a documentary about the event and the child, now a young man, at the center of the storm.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 100%
10. Gerald’s Game (9/29 on Netflix)
There is a lot of anticipation for the theatrical release of Stephen King’s It, a remake of the 1990 miniseries. Reports are that it is legitimately scary. At the end of the month, though, we are treated to another Stephen King adaptation. This Netflix original is about a married couple who plays a harmless sex game at a remote location that results in the husband dying and the wife being tied to the bed. She has to fight the demons in her head and possibly things lurking in the house to survive. Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood star.
Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A
- OnScreen Chief Film Critic
Every month, Netflix and Amazon announce a list of movies they are adding to their streaming service. While I mostly focus my attention on movies currently in theaters, this is alternative programming for people who can’t get to the movie theater on a regular basis. Here are 10 recommendations from the new streaming titles available in the month of June.
1. [Insert Classics Here] (7/1 on Amazon Prime, Netflix)
Looking at the slate, it is a lean month for newer releases, so let’s start off with an assortment of classics that will be available. One of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic movies shows up on Amazon Prime, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Other great options on Amazon include Bull Durham, Clear and Present Danger, Cold Mountain, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, The Hunt for Red October, Kingpin, Manhattan, Rosemary’s Baby, and a whole lot of Star Trek movies. Steven Spielberg’s E.T. is sure to stir up some emotional childhood feelings on Netflix if you’re interested. Other Netflix options include Best in Show, Delicatessen, Emma, Matchstick Men, Punch-Drunk Love, and Titanic.
2. The Salesman (7/6 on Amazon Prime)
This Oscar-winning Iranian film was listed as being available last month, apparently that didn’t happen, or it popped up and then went away for a bit, similar to what happened to The Handmaiden back in March and April. Maybe this time they’re telling the truth. I’m still interested in seeing it.
3. The Assignment (7/6 on Amazon Prime)
Typically, I like to list highlights, but this is a unique lowlight of a movie that could be offensively bad or quietly veer into the “so bad it’s good” category. Michelle Rodriguez plays an assassin who wakes up to find out that he has undergone a gender reassignment surgery and goes after the doctor who performed the sex change. The doctor, sadly, is Sigourney Weaver. The premise sounds like it reeks of the desperation of trying to make a topically relevant action movie that severely strains believability, but apparently the script is as old as 1978. There’s about a million ways this movie could go wrong. I’m equal parts fascinated and appalled that this movie exists and wonder how it got greenlighted by a studio.
4. The Void (7/6 on Netflix)
The Void is a sci-fi horror movie that looks creepy as hell. A group of people are surrounded in a hospital by a group of mysterious hooded figures. It played for about a week here in Portland, ME back in April, and I didn’t get a chance to catch it then. I had heard good things, but my schedule just didn’t line up with being able to see it. Currently, it’s boasting a 73% on Rotten Tomatoes with comps to low-budget 80s horror films. Sounds like it could be a candidate to become a cult classic down the line.
5. Our Kind of Traitor (7/8 on Amazon Prime)
After the critical success of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy there has been a renewed interest in adapting the spy stories of John le Carre. Our Kind of Traitor came out in 2016 and received little attention, but it is a quality spy thriller about an unassuming British couple on vacation that gets roped into the defection plans of a Russian oligarch afraid for his life. Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris play the couple while Stellan Skarsgard is the affable Russian mobster. Damian Lewis has a supporting role as an MI6 operative.
6. Lion (7/9 on Netflix)
Looking back at the Oscars for 2016, Lion was the also-ran nominee for most of the major categories. It’s a shame, because in a slightly weaker year it could have easily been a strong Oscar contender. Lion is the story about Saroo, who was orphaned in India as a child and adopted by a family in Australia. As an adult, he uses Google Earth to go searching for his birth mother and his brother. The first half of the film is really harrowing, focusing on how Saroo got lost and barely survived on the streets of Mumbai, but ends in a quite poignant and slightly bittersweet place.
7. To the Bone (7/14 on Netflix)
Another month, another Netflix original film. This time it’s a dramedy about an anorexic young woman (Lily Collins) and the unorthodox doctor (Keanu Reeves) who challenges her face her eating disorder and change her life before it’s too late. The film is written and directed by Marti Noxon, a long-time Hollywood writer and producer on several TV shows including Mad Men, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Glee, and Grey’s Anatomy.
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (7/18 on Netflix)
The first of the planned Star Wars anthology stories, Rogue One was a pretty successful expansion of the Star Wars universe that didn’t compromise the integrity of the original trilogy. It’s not original, as it pretty blatantly draws inspiration from classics like The Dirty Dozen, The Guns of Navarone, and a few other movies about covert missions in wartime, but it is effective.
9. Miss Sloane (7/19 on Amazon Prime)
Miss Sloane is a movie from last fall that got lost in the shuffle a bit during the end-of-year/Awards Season rush. Directed by John Madden and starring Jessica Chastain, it seems like it was positioned for Awards Season, but missed its wave. This film is a dramatic thriller where Chastain plays a powerful D.C. lobbyist who gets on the wrong side of a powerful opponent that may be too much for her, even though she has a win-at-all-cost attitude. Chastain is an actress who is so consistently great, I will see her in just about anything she chooses to do.
10. Chef (7/28 on Amazon Prime)
Chef is a fun film written by, directed by, and starring Jon Favreau from 2014. It’s about an unhappy chef of a prestigious restaurant in L.A. who abruptly loses everything, buys a food truck, and begins to rediscover his love of food and family as he travels cross country serving food. It’s a pretty great road trip movie and features some tasty looking food too. It’s nothing ground-breaking, but it’s the kind of movie that’s like good comfort food.